Thursday, July 08, 2010

Curiosity wheels

The Curiosity rover team just installed six shiny aluminum wheels on the rover, giving the rover its “legs.” Unlike previous missions that used air bags for landing on the Martian surface, Curiosity is touching down wheels first!

The rover, which is about the size of an SUV, has wheels that are 50 centimeters in diameter, making them bigger than a car tire. Each wheel has its own motor, giving the rover independent six-wheel drive that’s better than an average car with two-wheel drive. But engineers didn’t stop there; the rover can swerve and turn in place a full 360 degrees.

The suspension system is based on the “rocker-bogie” system, which was used on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers and the earlier Pathfinder missions. This system allows the rover to roll over large rocks and dips without tipping over. The rover can also climb steep hills, up to 45 degrees.

With the wheels in place,Curiosity is one step closer to rolling on Mars.